Cope was ‘born and ran, didn’t have the time to crawl’

The Congress of the People have “co-opted” the former deputy president of the country, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, into its national leadership.

Cope’s general secretary Charlotte Lobe briefed the media on Monday about decisions taken at the weekend’s congress national committee meeting, where plans to strengthen the party were discussed.

Mlambo-Ngcuka, a staunch ally of former president Thabo Mbeki, was unveiled as a Cope member in the lead-up to elections, but refused then to be part of the leadership team. Lobe said she could not comment on suggestions that Mlambo-Ngcuka was likely to be a candidate for the party’s presidency, saying the matter was to be discussed at the next CNC meeting. The decision to bring her in is seen as an effort to defuse leadership tensions between party president Mosioua Lekota and his deputy Mbhazima Shilowa.

Despite continued denials that there was a leadership tussle in the party, Lobe said Cope’s priority was to fight ‘the emergence of tendencies that have the potential of destroying Cope”, such as ‘factionalism, opportunism and tribalism”. In a first sign that the party was acknowledging that Lekota and Shilowa have ambitions to occupy the presidency of the party, Lobe said ‘leadership contests” in Cope do not constitute ‘divisions” but were a sign of democracy.

‘It would be a myth to pretend that Cope does not have challenges,” said Lobe. She however said these ‘challenges” did not amount to a crisis.

Cope will hold a policy conference early next year to refine its policies in preparation for the leadership conference that will now only take place in December of 2010. This is six months after the provincial conferences — scheduled to be completed by June next year. At its inaugural conference in Bloemfontein, the party resolved to hold elections within 18 months. Moving the conference back indicates that Cope is not ready to elect its leadership as it struggles to establish branches.

As part of strengthening the party, treasurer general Hilda Ndude will be recalled from Parliament to full-time duty at the head office. Cope is also in massive debt owing to its election campaign and the party’s website was last updated over a month ago. Lobe said these were some of the reasons that Ndude needed to be based at the head office.

Cope member of Parliament Nolitha Vukuza said it was inevitable that the party would struggle along the way, given the speed with which it had to prepare for elections just after it was formed. ‘It was born and it ran. We didn’t have the time to crawl,” said Vukuza.

Meanwhile Cope confirmed that it suspended Simon Grindrod who resigned last week as the head of elections and from the CNC. Grindrod, who remained an ordinary member of the party, is facing disciplinary action for attacking the party in public.

‘Simon continued to speak to the media even after we had agreed that no one should speak on the issue before the CNC meeting,” said Lobe. She dismissed Grindrod’s allegations that he was attacked by some of his colleagues — including youth leader Anele Mda — when he raised issues about Cope’s leadership problems at a congress working committee meeting.

‘If you’re not used to the culture of political debates, you’ll say you are being attacked. Cope does not regret the debate that went on at the CWC meeting, it was right to do so.”

The decision on who will fill the vacant positions left by Grindrod and former second deputy president of the party Lynda Odendaal will be taken at the next CNC meeting.

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